Galette des rois: the tradition around the “Cake of Kings”
The French love their culinary traditions and while you thought the food fest was over past Christmas and New Year’s Eve, it actually is not. 12 days after Christmas, on January 6th, comes the Epiphany commemorating the visit to baby Jesus by the three Magi (Kings), or Wise Men. The “Galette des rois” which literally translates as “cake of kings”, was intended to “draw the kings”.
Nowadays, the cake of kings is eaten all through the month of January and contains a “fève” (a bean) which is basically a trinket, hidden inside. Whoever comes upon the trinket in their slice of cake gets to be the “king” for a day. The tradition dates back to the 14th century when a gold coin was placed in a piece of bread. The coin became a bean and the bean a porcelain trinket!
Tirer les rois: “Drawing the kings”
The French have this tradition that when serving the galette des rois, the cake should be cut as to offer one slice per person, plus one, symbolically for the first poor passing by. The youngest person in the room, the innocent hand, hides underneath the table and calls out names of those present. The distribution will be done accordingly. And this is all to do with the little charm inside the cake: void cheating and the lucky “fève” being served to himself or to the favorite person. The fans even collect the charms year after year!
The President’s galette
During the French Revolution, the name was changed to “Gâteau de l’egalité” (Equality cake) because it wasn’t exactly socially acceptable, maybe even dangerous one would say, to be a king! And to date, it is considered against the “étiquette” to draw a king at the Elysée as it would be highly inappropriate to “find a king” in the Presidential Palace! So every year, a huge galette, made for 150 people, is served at the Elysée and the artisan pastry chef is instructed not to put a “fève” in it.
French bakeries sell the galette with a paper golden or silver crown. And even if becoming a king for one day does not have any influence, children, and adults, still get excited about it!
Celebrating the kings and queens at Galeries Lafayette
Originally, there are two types of king’s cake across France. In Paris and the north of France, it is a puff pastry tart filled with an almond cream called frangipane. In southern France, it will generally be an orange blossom flavored round brioche cake with a hole in the middle (suggesting the shape of a crown) decorated with candied fruit. But then, other types of galettes can be found in different regions of France.
The excellence of French gastronomy and the galette des rois
Every “pâtisseries” will have its own cake of kings. Traditionalists might insist on the original recipe and shape but French chefs are getting more and more inventive, popping up different versions of the cake so as to stand out from the crowd to the fans’ greatest tasting delight!
At Galeries Lafayette, the most renowned Chefs will treat visitors with their special home-made galette! And cherry on the galette, the Chefs even make exclusive creations for Galeries Lafayette! The cakes will be re-shaped or offer new flavors, displaying treasures of imagination for Galeries Lafayette’s visitors only!
Impossible to resist the temptation to try one or… all of them! Some of them can also get highly imaginative when it comes to the “fève” and paper crown!
That said, if you are not a galette fan, Galeries Lafayette offers a wide choice of pastries to indulge your sweet tooth and make you the king or queen of your day! Here are a few of the best picks!